As Alex Garland's famous words in 'The Beach' spring to mind, "Tourists went on holidays, while travelers did something else. They traveled."
Longing to travel abroad? Then gear up for big changes before you start making your plans. Notably, Indians are known for their love of traveling abroad. In fact, till the Coronavirus pandemic hit the travel industry, it is well-known that more Indians were travelling abroad for vacations than ever before. The Indian traveler’s love for new places and cultural experiences also paved the way for travel blogs and travel writings to be increasingly in the spotlight.
As Alex Garland’s famous words in ‘The Beach’ spring to mind, “Tourists went on holidays, while travelers did something else. They traveled.”
Think of some of the happiest travel moments from your life and these words will conjure up a sense of heartwarming nostalgia amidst sepia-tinted moments that stay glossy in the mind’s eye.
One of the early travel bloggers in India and now a self-published author, Shrinidhi Hande shares candid insights with Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand about the big changes that all travellers must now gear up for. He also talks in detail about his experience in self-publishing and the challenges and journeys of a travel writer.
International travel: Get ready for big changes
According to Shrinidhi Hande, international travel may now take several years to return to normalcy. In fact, he cites several factors such as quarantine rules, visa rules, medical tests, risks of denied boarding due to symptoms, etc. These are areas of concerns that can be flagged off as serious concerns for international travellers.
“Tourism boards, airlines and governments will have a lot of challenges balancing revenue from tourism vs risk from outbreak,” Shrinidhi Hande adds.
Emphasising on how technology is driving more Indians to travel and why Japan is a must-visit country, the author is of the opinion that low budget travel is possible if one is armed with correct information at the planning stage itself.
Travel books change perspective as we grow older. So, what prompted you to write a travel book at a time when so many blogs including your own cover global and desi travel in detail?
The Internet is overloaded with information. There are thousands of blogs, websites offering travel information but finding exact, useful, truthful information is like finding a needle in a haystack.
I believe there is still a need for well curated and concise books that serve a specific purpose and provide all relevant information in one spot. Most of the content online is also written with commercial motive- to sell you something.
I decided to put together a book that serves the personal interests of a budget traveler, helps him/her understand the true picture, available options so that they can make an informed decision about their travel.
Why did you choose to self-publish your travel book?
I did evaluate other options – approaching popular publishers. But for first-time authors, approaching a tier-1 publisher is difficult. The waiting period is too long as they will have a long pipeline. Less popular publishers are easier to approach and print the book, but they do not have a strong online or offline distribution.
NotionPress’s Xpress publishing platform felt like the best option. I have full control over the content and they have good online support – books are sold on Amazon, Flipkart and their website. So far, this has been a good experience overall.
Can you share the pros and cons of self-publishing for the benefit of first time authors?
In terms of mistakes and pitfalls, it is important to do multiple proof readings and not let mistakes creep in. This happens when you are super excited.
There will be some limitations in terms of design. You have to decide if you will manage these limitations or opt for professional help.
With so many self-published authors, many book stores may not take your book seriously and not accept them at all.
Be ready to do all the marketing on your own. On a per book basis, self publishing is a bit expensive compared to traditional publishing, where hundreds of copies are printed in bulk.
What are the facets of global travel that are unique and more relevant to Indians today?
Global travel is a lot easier today than it was a few decades ago. Thanks to technology, we can plan our trips entirely on our own and explore destinations we have never been to before, whose local language we may not even know.
For example, despite being my first time to Colombia and Panama, without knowing the local language, it took me just a few minutes to figure out how to use buses in the city and reach my hostel, saving 50 to 100 dollars in taxi fare.
Similarly, language translation apps came to my rescue in China.
How has your book captured these aspects?
My book is full of tips for helping readers execute their international travel without complications and on a low budget.
One country you believe that every Indian must visit? Which country would it be and why?
Japan. The reasons are:
Trust: There are 100s of vending machines on the street with glass covers and no one breaks in! Everyone pays and takes goods.
Respect: A ticket inspector bows to an empty compartment of a train while entering and exiting, as a mark of respect.
Time keeping: Honoring time commitment to the last second.
Dubai and Singapore should also be visited to understand how strictly law enforcement is done.
In fact, European and American cities teach us a lot about empathy, caring for others, respecting the rules (waiting in line etc) and taking good care of public property.
In your opinion, as an avid traveller, what can India do better in terms of making a traveller’s experience more streamlined and authentic?
Travellers need clear information – is there water in the waterfalls, is the place open today, can I reach using public transport and so on.
While there is a lot of generic information on the net, practical information is hard to find. Many times, the local police close a tourist attraction spot because of some problem, say a person committed suicide at that spot.
Now, a traveller may have travelled 150 kms to visit this place and is forced to go back as they had no clue before they started. Let’s not forget that our public transport system is quite unreliable. These simple aspects make the difference between a fruitful holiday and wasted time.
Of course, we also need better infrastructure and facilities at tourist spots – good roads, toilet facilities, locker rooms, affordable local transportation and so on.
Other big changes you now anticipate as a frequent traveller?
Domestic travel will be the new focus. Road trips instead of trains/flights. Leisure travel is also severely affected due to job losses and salary cuts or changed priorities, where people now prefer to save for a crisis than indulging in avoidable travel.